Laurence Coupe, senior lecturer in English, Manchester Metropolitan University, is reading David Ingram's The Jukebox in the Garden: Ecocriticism and American Popular Music Since 1960 (Rodopi, 2010). "Ingram queries Leo Marx's distinction between 'popular and sentimental' pastoral and 'imaginative and complex' pastoral, and is certainly loath to make it within popular music. He refuses to dismiss the apparently naive nostalgia for a rural past that informs the harmonies of folk, country and country rock, even while drawing our attention to the more discordant and potentially more ecologically challenging sounds of avant-garde dystopian rock, indie music and hip hop."
Helen Fulton, professor of medieval literature, University of York, has just finished rereading Norbert Ohler's The Medieval Traveller (Boydell Press, 2010), translated by Caroline Hillier. "Originally published in German in 1986, this classic of medieval travel writing has been revived in a smart new edition. Ohler takes a structuralist approach to the realities of pre-industrial travel, including rocky roads, wonky bridges and hospitable monasteries. Complete with case studies of real travellers such as Charlemagne and Marco Polo, this is psycho-geography before its time."
Chris Jones is senior lecturer in English, University of St Andrews. He is reading Hugh Magennis' Translating Beowulf: Modern Versions in English Verse (D.S. Brewer, 2011). "So, Beowulf is now in the cultural mainstream. This thoughtful, elegantly written book examines a number of the significant 20th-century translations that helped put it there. For many, the chapter on Seamus Heaney will be the main draw, but Magennis also turns our attention to the 'energy in order' of Edwin Morgan's Beowulf and the formal stylisation of Michael Alexander's. Insightful."
June Purvis, professor of women's and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading Women and Citizenship in Britain and Ireland in the Twentieth Century, edited by Esther Breitenbach and Pat Thane (Continuum, 2010). "It is commonly accepted that after certain categories of women in Britain were awarded the parliamentary vote in 1918, there was a decline in women's political activism until the late 1960s, and another decline since the 1980s. This edited collection, in 13 closely argued chapters, debunks that myth. A timely book that, importantly, points also to the need for further research."
Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished reading Susan Hill's A Kind Man (Chatto & Windus, 2011). "Tommy and Eve's relationship is muted by the death of their daughter. He works in a Lowryesque factory while she tends the chickens. Struck down by cancer, Tommy finds himself the unwilling conduit of supernatural healing powers. Hill confirms her mastery of the novella, conveying a pensive melancholy through the most pared-down prose."